Teacher couple hopes to get married on live TV
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com March 28, 2014 6:56PM
Jason Rubo proposed to Courtney Almanza while snowboarding in Michigan in February. | Supplied photo
Updated: May 1, 2014 7:12AM
One of Alicia Almanza’s favorite TV shows was Windy City Live. She was not only a faithful fan, but was able to celebrate her last birthday in November in its studio audience, just weeks before she died on Christmas Day of Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma.
So it seems only fitting that the Mokena woman’s daughter, Courtney Almanza, has a chance to win the show’s Dream Wedding contest. If Courtney and her beau, Jason Rubo, of Chicago, win, they will be married on live television May 16 — all expenses paid.
Courtney and Jason are one of four finalist couples for the Dream Wedding, selected from hundreds of entries. The winner will be announced Friday’s program, after being selected by popular vote via Facebook: at http://woobox.com/yj4drm. Voting ends Thursday.
“My mom used to tell me about the show all the time,” Courtney said, but she was not familiar with the Dream Wedding contest and never knew her mother’s sisters, Terry and Gina, entered them in the contest.
“I was a little shocked. I’m not the kind of person who would ever think of doing this. I don’t tell everyone about my life,” said Courtney, a graduate of Lincoln-Way East High School and Illinois State University. “But this is so typical of them. They are insane.”
Her aunt, Gina Mata, said entering her niece in the contest was a bit of “a fluke.”
“I wanted to write to them and thank them for making Alicia’s last birthday so special,” Mata said. Then, she went on to tell the show about Alicia’s daughter getting engaged.
Courtney’s dad died when she was little and her mother’s illness is all she has ever known.
“She got the short end of the stick,” said Mata, who believes that God brought Jason into her life at a time when she really needed someone. Jason was at the hospital every day, providing dinners and rides to family members, she said.
“He was so supportive and so giving,” she said.
Before her death, Alicia had “creeped” on Jason’s Facebook page, and declared that he was the one her daughter would marry, her sister Terry Almanza said.
For more than half of her 41 years, Alicia battled ACC — a slowly progressive disease that develops in the salivary and lacrinal glands and spreads to the lungs and kidneys. She was founder of Attack ACC, a foundation that has raised over $190,000 for ACC research. Courtney now has taken over as president of that foundation and will continue to sponsor the annual fundraising walk in September.
“It’s a great thing my mom did, and I want to keep it going,” Courtney said. “But it’s hard to get into it without mom.”
Jason — whose father was diagnosed with cancer — has been Courtney’s rock through the loss of her mother.
“Courtney has been through a lot. She’s the strongest person I know,” Jason said. Winning the dream wedding “would be a nice gift for her. She deserves it.”
After they learned more about the Dream Wedding, and viewed previous weddings that were “just beautiful,” Courtney said she realized that this is “an amazing opportunity.”
The couple met at Hillside Elementary School, in Hillside, where both are sixth-grade teachers. Their students were so thrilled, they made a YouTube video urging people to vote for them.
The two teachers got engaged Feb. 8 on a winter trip to Michigan. As Courtney finished snowboarding down a challenging run, Jason was waiting at the bottom, on one knee, with a diamond ring.
They were planning to save up money and be married in July 2015, and were a bit “overwhelmed” at the idea of getting married so soon. They had made no real plans yet, other than selecting mint green and gold as their colors, with tulips for flowers.
The TV wedding planners will consult them on their personal preferences, Courtney said.
Should they win, the show will provide the wedding dress, hair and make-up for the bride, dresses for the bridesmaids, tuxedos for the groom and groomsmen, a reception at a hotel ballroom, with a four-hour open bar, and catered multi-course dinner for 100 guests, all valued at a minimum of $23,000, according to its website.
Both admitted they are a bit nervous about getting married on live TV.
“There are always nerves at a wedding,” Jason said. “It does not matter where I say ‘I do,’ in front of family and friends or thousands of viewers. I know I want to be with Courtney for the rest of my life.”
“If my mom knew about this contest, she would feel the same as I do,” Courtney said. “This is crazy.”